A volatile stock market and uncertain investors have made options contracts pricey, but there are still a few places where investors can take advantage this earnings season, according to UBS. Head of equity derivatives research Stuart Kaiser wrote in a note to clients last week that expected volatility is elevated at the start of earnings season, which “leaves the bar for owning outright options high for megacap stocks.” However, there are some situations in which call options or call spreads look attractive. “We are biased to selectively own upside in AAPL , META , TSLA and AMZN where sentiment is low and our analysts positive,” Kaiser wrote. Those stocks have been pummeled year to date. Apple is the only one of the four to outperform the S & P 500, and it is still down about 15%. Call options are derivatives contracts that serve as bets that a stock will rise above a set strike price. A call spread, which involves buying one call option and then selling another one with a higher strike price, effectively is a bet on a moderate rise in price and is cheaper than a straight call. For Apple, “low expectations and strong China iPhone sales favor upside potential” for earnings, UBS said. China is a major question mark for many consumer companies, as the country’s stop-and-start lockdowns to slow the spread of Covid variants have made the world’s second-largest economy difficult to read. Apple is set to report earnings on July 28. The August 5 calls with a strike price of $155 could be a smart bet, UBS said. Meanwhile, Facebook-parent Meta has been the worst performer in the group. Its stock has dropped more than 50% year to date as the company makes long-term investments in the metaverse. But UBS said it is the older advertising business that could stand out in Meta’s July 27 earnings report. “UBS Internet analyst Lloyd Walmsley thinks Meta has the best risk/reward skew in large cap online advertising right now, despite continued uncertainty around privacy headwinds, TikTok competition and the timing of reels monetization,” Kaiser wrote. UBS highlighted the August 5 call spread with strike prices of $180 and $200 as a potential winning trade for that report. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.
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